My first impression of Santiago in Chile was not a good one as all the buildings seemed to have come from the 1930-1940’s. I was beginning to think that I had been wrong to visit this city until we arrived at our accommodation in Bella Vista.
Bella Vista is an old part of town and near the university but boy does it have character. A lot of the building are painted with all sorts of scenes and the place is full of restaurants, bars, theatres and jazz clubs. It seems as if everyone in Chili is eating all the time. It’s a great area to base yourself in. We had a self-serviced apartment which was cheaper than a standard hotel.
I took some time to go back to all the old buildings that I had first seen and was pleasantly surprised. The place is full of arcades and shops as well as lots of restaurants. It’s a great place to wonder around and snack.
The modern part of Santiago has the Mall Parque Arauco which is a huge upmarket mall with everything that you can think of. If you are into shopping go there.
We got around Santiago by buying a ticket on a hop on hop off bus run by a company called Turistik. You can buy a ticket for the day and hop on and off the bus as it goes around Santiago. They also supply earphones so that you can plug in and get an idea of the places you are in.
We bought a package from Turistik to do the hop on hop off bus, visit Valparaiso and to go to the ski resorts in the Andes. Talking of the Andes, you see the snow topped mountains everywhere in Santiago as they surround the city.
A visit to Valparaiso is a must. The part of the town that you visit is a world heritage site. The houses are all sorts of designs with amazing paint jobs and murals.
The trip into the Andes to the ski resorts is really good. The scenery is spectacular and there is heaps of snow. Be advise that if you go with Turistik they will stop on the way to hire suitable snow gear. Factor this in as they do not tell you so it was a bit of a shock to us as we were not carrying much cash.
Santiago is definitely worth s visit but be aware the locals are not very tolerant of non-spanish speaking people and so it can sometimes be tough to find your way around.